Chadron State College football players and fans are always jubilant after a win, but they had even more reason to celebrate after the Eagles’ 41-23 homecoming victory over the Western New Mexico Mustangs on Saturday, Oct. 27.
Immediately following the game, players ushered fans to the nearby Armstrong Physical Education Building to witness a groundbreaking ceremony for the facility’s upcoming renovation and expansion.
Excitement has long been building for the Armstrong project, the first phase of which includes a new 2,100-seat sports arena to the south of the existing structure.
Speakers at Saturday’s ceremony were Dr. Randy Rhine, CSC interim president, Randy Bauer, the member of the Chadron State Foundation board who co-chaired the campaign, Brad Smith, athletic director, women’s basketball player Sadie Waugh of Paxton and football player Lane Haller of Gordon.
Each of spoke with enthusiasm about what the facility will mean for CSC and the community.
“When completed, it will provide our outstanding student athletes with a facility that is competitive with any school in the RMAC,” Rhine said.
For many at the ceremony, the project’s size and scope was first realized Saturday when the corners of the expansion’s footprint were marked. The building’s perimeter will reach beyond the current parking lot to the south.
According to the plans, most of the existing Armstrong Building, which opened in 1964, will be retained. The building serves as headquarters for CSC’s NCAA Division II sports programs, including offices, weight training, the home court for basketball and volleyball, and locker rooms for football. In addition to the new arena, the plan includes space for classrooms, offices for athletic and sports medicine staff, locker rooms, concessions, ticket sales and storage.
The speakers thanked a sizable list of people who helped make the project possible, including Nebraska Sen. John Harms of Scottsbluff, an alumnus of CSC, and other legislators. The Legislature this spring approved a $6.7 million appropriation for the facility, which was approved by Gov. Dave Heineman. Members of the Nebraska State College System office and board were given praise for working with the Legislature to secure the funding.
Also receiving accolades Saturday were the Chadron State Foundation and retired CSC President Dr. Janie Park for believing in the project and raising the $2 million required for the Legislature’s appropriation.
Rhine also commended the Leo A Daly architectural firm for a design that will “carry us far into the future,” along with Adolfson & Petersen Construction and their local partner, Fuller Construction. Officials expect the first phase of the project to be completed as soon as fall 2014.
“These companies have laid out an aggressive timeline for the project to ensure the least disruption to our athletic programs as possible,” Rhine said.
Bauer, a Chadron insurance agent who co-chaired the Vision 2011 fundraising campaign, said the project has been needed for four decades. He said the building had the space needed for the sports that were offered in 1964, the year of its construction, but that it “became obsolete overnight” when Title IX gender equity legislation ushered in women’s athletics in 1972.
“Today, that 40 year wait is over,” Bauer said. “We are finally going to have a building that is adequate for athletic programs – a building that we can be proud of. This, indeed, is a day to celebrate.”
Bauer encouraged students to show appreciation to the alumni who contributed to the project.
“All of you students out there, I know the term alumni sometimes conjures up in your mind the image of a bunch of old people coming back to campus to reminisce about the old days,” he said. “But the next time you are walking behind an older alumni, like me, shuffling around campus, you may just want to say thank you. It may just well be that one of us old codgers may have paid for your new locker room.”
He also thanked the student-athletes for signing on to become CSC Eagles, telling the upperclassmen that they “brought us here” even though they may not get to use the building as athletes.
“We owe them a debt of gratitude for choosing to be CSC Eagles. Particularly those whose sports are housed in Armstrong,” Bauer said. “You have done more with less than any of the schools you compete against. You joined a long line of CSC athletes who have had to make do with inadequate facilities. In fact, most people don’t realize we have been waiting 40 years for this day.”
Smith, the Eagles’ former football coach, reminisced about arriving to CSC in 1987. He said the football locker room has expanded from being “about a quarter the size it is now,” but is still inadequate.
He, too, said he is proud of the athletes and their accomplishments.
“You never give up. You never look back and feel sorry for yourself and say ‘Boy, our facilities are terrible and we can’t do this and we can’t do that. You’re always focused and looking ahead to the future. The future is here," he said.
Waugh, a senior forward, said she’s excited for the project to get under way.
“Not only do our future athletes deserve this, so do our community, our fans, and everyone who supports us,” she said. “Thanks again to everybody who has helped bring this together.”
Haller, a sophomore cornerback who had broken up a pass and made two tackles before his impromptu speaking engagement, echoed Waugh’s sentiments.
“This has been a long time coming, and we are super excited about the new facilities,” he said. “I know it takes a lot of effort by a lot of different people and we just want to thank you.”
Waugh also provided insight to what made her decide to become an Eagle.
“Aside from Chadron being such a great school both academically and athletically, the biggest reason that I chose (CSC) is because of the community. I come from a town of about 650 people so I’ve come to know and love that small-town everybody-knows-everybody feeling,” she said. “When I heard about Chadron and the way the community interacts with the people at the school, I couldn’t have been more sold. In the last four years that I’ve been here, I couldn’t be happier with my decision. I’ve met many people in the community and I’ve felt nothing but compassion and support from everybody. I’m really proud to call myself an Eagle.”
Many others were proud to call themselves Eagles on Saturday, too.
As the Show Band played the school fight song one last time to close the ceremony and homecoming, Eagle fans marked the end of a ceremony and the beginning of a new chapter of CSC athletics.
See Also: Armstrong Project Presentation
—Justin Haag, CSC Information Services